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the simple life

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Blink

This is going to be huge.

Malcolm Gladwell, introduces his new book here:

" It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, Blink is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good."

How do I know it's going to be huge?

Rapid cognition.

I do make a lot of snappy decisions. Selectively. But I don't think I make a very conscious choice about what I select. Usually, it just happens.

When it comes to shopping and choosing restaurants or even thinking about where to spend the day, I'm tedious. I go around looking at prices, reading reviews and calling friends to find out more information. But as I have found out recently, such informed decisions still mean I buy a lot of junk I don't need.

Researching and thinking may still mean we make bad decisions.

The funny thing is, I tend to make snappy judgments about the really important and costly things in life. Like spending $12,000 for self-improvement courses, breaking up, becoming an entrepreneur, choosing a school or field of study and judging people from first impressions.

Not all these judgments have been wise. But all in all, I'm very happy with the majority of the decisions I have made.

One of the snappy judgments that I do real well is with actors. I love having auditions. And frankly, I usually make my mind up in the first couple of minutes. Risky? Yes. Stupid. Probably. Have I let some gems slipped through my grasp? Maybe. But I think I have made some good decisions so far. And what do I based my decisions on? Apart from gut feel, I don't have any answers.

The title of this book is Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. It reminds me of Edward de Bono in his Thinking Course when he argues that the purpose of thinking is to eliminate thinking. In this fast-changing world, we need answers quicker like never before. More often than not, there is too much information to process in too short a time. We will need to make decisions faster and better.

" One of the stories I tell in "Blink" is about the Emergency Room doctors at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. That's the big public hospital in Chicago, and a few years ago they changed the way they diagnosed heart attacks. They instructed their doctors to gather less information on their patients: they encouraged them to zero in on just a few critical pieces of information about patients suffering from chest pain--like blood pressure and the ECG--while ignoring everything else, like the patient's age and weight and medical history. And what happened? Cook County is now one of the best places in the United States at diagnosing chest pain.

Not surprisingly, it was really hard to convince the physicians at Cook County to go along with the plan, because, like all of us, they were committed to the idea that more information is always better. But I describe lots of cases in "Blink" where that simply isn't true. There's a wonderful phrase in psychology--"the power of thin slicing"--which says that as human beings we are capable of making sense of situations based on the thinnest slice of experience. I have an entire chapter in "Blink" on how unbelievably powerful our thin-slicing skills are. I have to say that I still find some of the examples in that chapter hard to believe."

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